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Friday, June 2, 2017

Did My Parents Plan This Too? God Bless Them!

The melody of the song we all know as "Happy Birthday" came from an older song entitled "Good Morning To All". According to Wikipedia, the first published version of "Happy Birthday" used the name John to follow the word "dear" in the third line. Sing the song using that name and tell me if you share my suspicion that whoever chose it was not a musician. If that person was a musician, I pray that individual was not a drummer. 

The original lyric in the third line of "Good Morning To All" had "dear children". And that is what leads me to today's profound question. In your view, which names are most ill-suited to that third line of "Happy Birthday"? I'll get us started on this critical philosophical inquiry.

First off, one syllable names - like "John" - are not good. Try "Grace" and feel how uncomfortable it is having that long "a" stretched over two notes, regardless of the tie indicated in the music. Names with two syllables, if the accent is on the first - like "Patrick" - are a good fit. "Nadine" or "Yvonne"? Yeah, not so much.

Three syllables? Well, if the accent is on the second syllable - like "Rebecca" - then you have two choices. Either leave out the word "dear" or go with a two syllable version like "Becky" or "Becca". A name with three syllables can keep the "dear" if the accent is on the first. Try "Alison" and tell me how that feels rolling off your vocal cords. What's your opinion on unshortened four syllable names like "Victoria"? To me, singing "Happy Birthday Dear Penelope" just sounds so ... busy. It's a little better without the "dear", I suppose.

But my top contender for most ill-suited to "Happy Birthday" is any one syllable name, unable to be elongated - e.g. like how "Jack" can become "Jackie" - and also ending in a long vowel. Every time I've sung "Happy Birthday" to a person named "Lee" has been a painful musical experience. And, its even more torturous if you leave out the "dear" for a name like that. Don't believe me? Try singing it aloud and get back to me.  

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